In the 1980s, Wipro made the leap from being primarily known as a vegetable oil company in India into the world of IT. In order to be a competitor in this industry on a global scale, Wipro would need to continually improve its performance as well as work smarter towards meeting the needs of its customers. It found the methodology to do so in Six Sigma.

When utilizing the Six Sigma methodology, many companies opt to tip their toe in, choosing just a couple of aspects of the methodology to see how it can improve their organization. Wipro, on the other hand, went all in. The organization implemented the full range of Six Sigma tools in its organization for its various service lines. This included incorporating DFSS, DCAM, and DSSP into the development of new processes. DMAIC and TQSS were utilized for the improvement of existing processes. For reengineering, CFP was used.

Wipro Had a Problem

Wipro was founded in 1945 and began its operations as a vegetable oil company. In the 1970s, the organization made its first moves towards expanding beyond this particular industry by manufacturing pneumatic and hydraulic cylinders. By 1979, operations had further expanded into consumer care products like baby care products and toiletries as well as into instruments used in healthcare.

With the economic reforms of India in the1980s, the organization found itself in a position where it could expand even further into another field. The company began putting its focus on IT and found unparalleled success in this endeavor on the domestic level. Wipro became the most successful information technology company in India. Wipro began looking towards the global marketplace. However, in order to be competitive on a global scale, it saw the need to improve the product performance of its telecom applications. A desire to make a dent in the United States would require the organization’s business operations to be in alignment with customer needs as well as a culture of continuous improvement. This would build customer trust and loyalty, as well as keep the company ahead of the global competition. The move towards a focus on quality led Wipro to Six Sigma.

The success of a corporate giant helps Wipro decide on the Six Sigma methodology

In 1995, Wipro was still a fairly small company that had begun its global outreach program with its software products and R & D services. Azim Premji, the chairman of Wipro, felt it necessary that the organization improve its quality practices if it was going to be a true global competitor. A joint venture with General Electric around the development and distribution of ultrasound devices helped Wipro see how General Electric conducted business. Premji saw General Electric’s major successes in its implementation of the Six Sigma process and knew that Wipro could greatly benefit from this methodology in its IT division as well.

The Initial Problems Wipro Ran Into Implementing Six Sigma

One hurdle that Wipro encountered in its early implementation of Six Sigma was getting the needed support from higher-level management. Applying the Six Sigma methodology with the kind of cohesiveness desired required a practical restructuring of the organization. This meant a great deal of training, building confidence in the program, and supplying the necessary infrastructure. Building up the company culture so that the Six Sigma process could succeed took a significant amount of time for Wipro.

Another issue was finding the right projects to put the organization’s initial focus on. Pilot projects would have to be launched in order to best learn the Six Sigma method and prove its success before the system could be fully integrated into Wipro’s operations. This meant selecting projects that had a high success probability and that would take a fairly short amount of time so that the proof of Six Sigma’s benefits could be shown quickly.

There was also the time needed to build a team that would be trained in the stages of Six Sigma. This training covered the five areas of DMAIC as well as a focus on increasing the satisfaction of the customer. Involved in this training were statistics, designing experiments, and benchmarking. With all of the work put into the training, Wipro was inspired to create its own consultancy.

The identification of resources required for individual projects also posed a challenge as they could vary greatly. Wipro developed a team of experts that could cover identification as well as determine the success of the various projects.

The Outcome Was Phenomenal

The benefits of adopting Six Sigma at Wipro were swift and clear. Software defects were reduced by a stunning 50%, software rework dropped from 12% to 5%, and productivity increased by 35%. In the hardware section of the business, installation failures dropped to 1% from a previous 4.5%. Data transfer also saw key improvements, such as the speed of transfer improving by 250%. The minimization of waste was also notably improved, as were company savings. This was attributed to changes that led to lower costs in development, maintenance, and schedule overruns. As far as global competition goes, Wipro was able to lower its field defects by 67% against the industry average.

All in all, over time, Wipro was able to reach a level where it could complete 93% of projects on time, become a global leader in IT, and deliver the kind of products and services that were seen as exemplary by its customer base.

6 Best Practices When Incorporating the Full Six Sigma Methodology Into Your Organization

While many companies may implement Six Sigma for a handful of projects or aspects of their business, Wipro used Six Sigma methods to completely transform how it operates. If there is a desire to take a similar approach at your organization, here are some best practices to consider:

1. Leadership onboarding

Having top leadership onboard for the switchover will be essential. They will need to be properly trained in order to appreciate and fully understand the benefits that Six Sigma offers to the organization. This training should cover roles and responsibilities, tools and techniques, and the necessity of top leadership to act as ambassadors for the methodology. By seeing the top-level belief in the system, there is a much greater likelihood of enthusiasm throughout the company.

2. Steering committee

Executive ownership of the methodology should also be demonstrated by the appointment of a committee that helps steer practices in the appropriate direction. This means that this committee will ensure that there is an alignment between organizational goals and Six Sigma-related projects. This committee will also ensure that the necessary resources required for the success of the projects are allocated and any potential roadblocks are fully removed.

3. Pilot projects

In order to demonstrate how adopting Six Sigma fully into your organization will yield exceptional benefits, launch a pilot program where a few smaller projects are focused on. These projects should be small enough to not cause executive concern, but significant enough that their success can be clearly determined. These projects should also have a defined and relatively short scope so that the outcome can be quickly shown and so that larger, long-term projects can be assessed.

4. Utilize all Six Sigma tools

Many organizations start and stop with DMAIC when incorporating Six Sigma into their organization. While this practice is hugely beneficial, Wipro opted to work the full Six Sigma methodology into how it operates. This meant finding pockets where such tools as DSSS, DCAM, DSSP, TQSS, and CFP could all serve vital functions.

5. Provide training at the floor level

Having the top brass trained in Six Sigma is vital, but it is also hugely important that all of your workers have the proper training in the fundamentals of this methodology. Wipro wound up having this training done internally and was so successful with it that the organization wound up starting its own consulting practice. If the resources are not there to have all of the training done internally, there are a wealth of resources available to outsource this type of training.

6. Prepare for a long-term commitment

While Wipro was able to see some major changes rather quickly from its adoption of the Six Sigma methodology, many of the full benefits took several years to manifest completely. Making such fundamental alterations to the way a business operates requires patience and steadfastness in order to see the full scope of the benefits that come with making such improvements. Make sure that your organization is well-prepared to weather the ups and downs that come with the short-term setbacks that may arise from such major change so that the long-term fruit can fully ripen.

Wipro’s Continued Success With Six Sigma

Wipro was the first company in India to adopt the Six Sigma methodology. Its incredible success has influenced many organizations throughout India to utilize Six Sigma as part of how they do business in a wide variety of industries. Today, Wipro still adopts many of the methods of Six Sigma as well as Lean. Six Sigma helped transform Wipro, and many years later, the organization is still reaping the rewards.

About the Author